Everyone feels anxious once in a while when you worry about major things in your life. However for those that have anxiety it is much different. Clinical Anxiety presents itself through excessive worry, sleep problems, intense panic attacks, irrational fears, headache, muscle tension, poor memory and concentration. No one person may experience anxiety the same way. However, most people suffering from it feel as though they have very little control over it. They may even have a hard time remembering what it was like without it. Due to the long and intense relationship with anxiety, most people also feel quiet hopeless and pessimistic about things getting better. Therefore it is normal to ask yourself, “Will I ever feel normal again?” “Will this ever go away?” or “Will I ever feel in charge again?” Anxiety not only involves physical sensations and symptoms, but also has a set of negative and irrational thoughts. Anxiety is often accompanied by catastrophic and all-or-nothing thinking that often minimizes the positive and magnifies the negative. Living with anxiety can get even harder if people who do not understand it surround you. They can love you and still not know how to support you with your anxiety.
We know that anxiety symptoms are treatable and manageable. Depending on the specific type of anxiety you are experiencing, research findings conclude different modalities. For example, we know that Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) is the best form of treatment for OCD where as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective for treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). You often avoid the things that make you feel anxious. Therefore, a big part of managing anxiety is learning to challenge the avoidance. Instead of running or shying away from it, we need to find the courage to face our anxiety. This may be a bit hard to imagine at the early stages of therapy, but there will even come a day when you will face your anxiety, but also tolerate it, accept it and be friendly towards it without judging it.
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (2006) by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., is one of my favorite books on anxiety. It has multiple techniques to turn fear, indecision and anger into power, action and love. I like to share with you how she breaks down Fear into 3 levels. According to Dr. Jeffers, Level 1 Fears are “surface story,” which are the events that you automatically and quickly identify as the cause of your anxiety. Some examples of level 1 Fear are being alone, change, illness, making decisions, being interviewed or making friends. Level 2 Fears are different as they are not situation oriented, but involve the ego (pg. 6). Examples of Level 2 Fears are rejection, helplessness, being vulnerable, failure or success. Level 3 Fear is the core such that “At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you (Pg. 7).” This quote sums up all that we need to know and understand to conquer our fears. Fear brings along a very specific belief about you, which says “I don’t have what it takes to make it through this.” It’s this doubt in self that feeds the fear. For example, level 1 Fear then translates to “I can’t handle illness” or “I can’t handle making a fool out of myself.” Level 2 Fear translate to “I can’t handle failure” or “I can’t handle being rejected.” The truth is “If you knew you could handle anything that came your way, what would you have to fear?” The answer is nothing. Dr. Jeffers goes on to say, “All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever comes your way.” There are so many tools and techniques to help improve your trust in yourself. However, the first step is uncovering the core belief that’s feeding the fear. If you like to learn more about how to manage fear, anxiety, or worry then therapy can be the right place for you.